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University of Alicante takes part in largest European marine protection project

The Santa Pola Marine Research Centre (CIMAR), within the UA-Spanish Oceanography Institute Joint R&D Unit, joins the first campaign on the oceanographic ship Ramón Margalef


Alicante. 14 March 2018

LIFE IP INTEMARES “Integrated, innovative and participatory management for the Natura 2000 Network in Spain’s marine environment” is the largest marine environmental conservation project in Europe, as well as the first national initiative combining a variety of European funds to manage a network of protected areas.

The main objective is to build and efficiently manage an established network of marine areas within the Natura 2000 Network, with the active involvement of all relevant sectors and research as basic decision-making tools. The project addresses European and national policies on the marine environment as a whole and is a highly demonstrative initiative at the European level and even worldwide, which will allow Spain to meet one of its international commitments: protecting over 10% of its marine surface.

The Spanish Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and the Environment coordinates the LIFE IP INTEMARES project through the Biodiversity Foundation and is a project partner through the Directorate-General for Coastal and Marine Sustainability. Other partners include the Spanish Oceanography Institute, WWF-Spain, the Spanish Ornithology Society/BirdLife and the Spanish Fisheries Confederation.

The Santa Pola Marine Research Centre (CIMAR), within the University of Alicante - Spanish Oceanography Institute Joint R&D Unit and in cooperation with researchers from the Cádiz, Málaga and Murcia oceanographic centres, has joined the first INTEMARES campaign on the oceanographic ship Ramón Margalef, exploring and mapping 2,115 square kilometres of the seabed off Spain’s south-eastern coast, at depths between 200 and 2,800 metres. The area comprised the submarine canyons of the Escarpe de Mazarrón, the submarine mountain Seco de Palos and the fields of pockmarks (large craters caused by gas eruptions and streams) in southern Alicante, among others. Highlights among the habitats observed include the deep white coral reefs on Seco de Palos (Madrepora, Lophelia, Desmophyllum), the fields of “sea whips” (Funiculina quadrangularis), and the remarkable fauna living in the pockmarks, where the “blind lobster” (Polycheles typhlops) was caught.

The collected information provides the first integral insight into the area’s seabed, which will allow us to learn more about the habitats and species it contains so it can be declared a Site of Community Importance (SCI). At present there is a need for connecting and protecting the deep ecosystems between two SCIs: Seco de los Olivos, in Almería, and the Menorca Channel, near the Balearic islands. To that end new continuous areas should be added, such as Seco de Palos, the Escarpe de Mazarrón, the pockmark fields or, south from Majorca, the submarine mountains.



Photo 1: Sample collection through rock dredging on the oceanographic ship Ramón Margalef.

Photo 2: White coral (Desmophyllum dianthus) from Seco de Palos, caught at a depth of 650 m.

Photo 3: “Blind lobster” (Polycheles typhlops) caught in a pockmark field at a depth of 550 m. 








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